Tag Archive: family


Hard to Say I’m Sorry

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a hard time apologizing to people and I know exactly why. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in an abusive home after my parents divorced and my mom and I moved in with my grandparents. Though she did not have a job, my mom kept herself quite busy out and about which meant I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. I don’t know the details, but it seems my grandfather essentially rescued her from a bad family situation when he married her. Translation…she had a lot of issues. And it seems she took those issues out on me. I was not the perfect child. I’m sure I had my moments that would drive any parent crazy. But I did not deserve the treatment I got. No child should ever feel afraid in their own home because of their own family.

More often than not, those times when my mom was gone and my grandfather was either gone or in the basement working on his inventions turned into episodes of violence and intimidation. It was like she had two completely different personalities, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute she’d be out of control, screaming and hitting and pulling my hair, and then the phone would ring and she would answer in the sweetest voice as if everything was just fine. No one outside our home had a clue…and neither did my mom. Every time she came home my grandmother would make sure to get to her first so she could tell her version of the day’s events. That always resulted in me having to apologize to her and tell her I loved her. Even as I’m sitting here typing this my heart is racing as those memories I normally choose not to dwell on are still vivid, like it just happened yesterday.

So I hope you can understand why I have a hard time apologizing. Over time it’s gotten easier, but it’s most difficult with the people I’m closest to, my family. My early experiences definitely created a roadblock or wall which, to others, probably looks a lot like a stubborn streak. It’s just not always easy to separate those times when I was forced to say I was sorry when I really, really wasn’t from the times when I want to say I’m sorry because I really, really am.

Now that I’m a parent and trying with all my might to make sure my kids have a better childhood than I did, I’ve started to try to see our life through their eyes. What is it like to wake up in their beds with me standing in the doorway telling them they need to get up? How do they truly see me as I’m pushing them through their morning routines? I know they’re not afraid which is truly a wonderful thing, but do they mostly see me smiling or frowning? Do they really know how much I love them and appreciate how great they are even if getting them to do their chores is like pulling teeth?

Thinking about all these things has made me realize that I have to consider the possibility that my grandmother never, ever asked herself how she looked in my eyes. She was always so concerned with how everyone else saw her and our family. She made it very clear that I was never to tell anyone what went on in our home. Obviously on some level she knew it wasn’t ok, but I think it’s possible that she really didn’t understand how bad it actually was and how much damage she was doing. Maybe because of her past it all seemed fairly normal, just nobody else‘s business. Or maybe she so identified with the person everyone else thought she was, she just assumed no one would ever see her differently no matter what she did.

I’m in no way saying it was ok, but now I’m seeing how easy it is to behave in certain ways without realizing how we’re coming across to those around us. And let’s face it, our family sees us at our worst. There are days when I’m grumpy and irritable and make very little effort to think before I speak, but somehow when I’m around other people I manage to control myself. Sometimes I can be impatient with my boys because I know they’re smart and capable of so much. Yet I would never speak to someone else’s child in the same tone of voice.

So I ask myself again, what does life look like from their perspective? Do they see a mom who is loving and happy and cheerful most of the time? I actually am very happy with my life now, but I wonder if that’s what they see or if most of their interactions with me have a negative tone. When I talk to them about life and how to navigate through it with goals and a positive attitude do they see how passionate I am about making sure they understand because I want what’s best for them or do they just see it as nagging? Other people say I inspire them (which is extremely humbling considering how I’ve lived most of my life), but do I inspire my kids or do I make them feel like I’m not happy with them the way they are?

You may be reading this thinking I’m beating up on myself, but I’m really not. I’m just trying to ask some hard questions because the last thing I want is to be one person to everyone else and another, completely different person to my family. When I really concentrate and imagine that I’m each of my boys I see a picture of me that I’m not entirely happy with. And that’s great! Not because I haven’t always been perfect, not one of us has, but because I can see clearly where I need to improve and what I need to apologize for. Not once when I was growing up in my grandparents’ house did my grandmother ever apologize to me. And it didn’t happen after I grew up and she mellowed out a bit, either. What a difference a simple “I’m sorry” would’ve made. Not a meaningless one, like all those I said to her over the years, but one from the heart knowing she needed to do better.

I guess part of me has always felt like apologizing is a sign of weakness, but now I know I couldn’t be more wrong. It takes courage to be willing to look at ourselves and come to terms with the fact that we have things to be sorry for, especially with our families. They see us at our worst and love us anyway. That doesn’t mean we should take advantage of the situation and continue on as we have been. It means that they deserve to know that we “get” how much we’ve hurt them even if we didn’t realize it at the time. They deserve to know how much we appreciate them for always being there through the good and the bad. And I can’t think of a better way to show our love and appreciation than by saying I’m sorry…and meaning it, no matter how hard it is.

My Beautiful Mom

Since it’s Mother’s Day, I wanted to share a photo of my mom when she was a little younger than I am now. I lost her to breast cancer that spread throughout her body because it wasn’t diagnosed and treated in time. She passed away on July 7, 1998, just a few weeks before my husband and I were married. She was one of the most generous, creative people I’ve ever known who always chose to see the good in others and had an amazingly beautiful singing voice (which unfortunately was not passed on to me). She even spent time touring with the Metropolitan Opera Company.

I wish my kids had the chance to get to know her and that I could’ve shared the joys and sorrows of being a mom with her. Goodness knows I put her through a lot and I’d love to be able to show her that I see things from a different perspective now. I may not do things exactly the same way she did, but I can say that I understand why she did what she did because of who she was and what she’d been through. We should be good to our moms because they’re imperfect people trying to do the best they can, loving us the best they know how.

I love that song. If fact, here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure.

Ok then, back to the food. This was one of those Ok, I Have Some Yakisoba Noodles and Random Vegetables So Let’s Throw Them Together “recipes”.  So let’s get to it!

1. First, I said a word of thanks for living in a town with a Trader Joe’s because they have organic tofu for well under $2/lb.

2. Then I cut one block into cubes. Yeah, I know my cuts were kinda uneven. Oh well. While I was cutting the tofu I was heating about 1 Tbs. oil (canola and corn blend, but use whatever you want as long as it holds up well to heat) in a large skillet. Just a note here about tofu – if you have time and you’re planning on browning it, press it first. You’ll get much better results and it won’t stick to the pan as easily. I was in a hurry so I didn’t do it this time.

3. I added the tofu to the skillet, giving it a quick shake to keep the cubes from sticking and cut 2 medium carrots into strips. Kind of like wide matchsticks, but feel free to cut them however you want. Go on…go crazy.

4. Then I sliced 1 yellow onion into strips about 1/4 – 1/2 inch wide. I also check on the tofu because it was starting to brown. Once most of the moisture has evaporated from the pan it’s important to check it every few minutes so it doesn’t stick. Or you could use something other than tofu. Whatever you want.

5. Once the tofu had browned on most sides I removed it from the pan before adding the carrots and onion because this was a particularly soft block and I knew it would fall apart if I left it in while cooking the other ingredients. If I had mushrooms I would’ve used them, too, but I used them all in the Turkey Tetrazzini the other day.

6. While the carrots and onion softened on medium heat I cut 2 large celery stalks and about 3 cups green cabbage into thin strips. Some other veggies that would be nice to add if you have them on hand are zucchini, Napa cabbage, baby corn, water chestnuts or snow peas.

7. I added the cabbage and celery to the skillet (I’d love to have a wok, but don’t have room to store it) and continued cooking it all for a couple of minutes.

8. You may be wondering, “Where’s the garlic??” Don’t worry, it’s coming. Next I broke up the noodles a bit with my hands before placing them on top of the veggies. I don’t know the exact measurement of the noodles, but I got them at Costco and they come in a two pack. I used one of the packages.

9. Let me just apologize in advance for this section. I made the sauce while the noodles steamed over the veggies and just like every other time I’ve made this I didn’t measure anything except for the 1/4 cup light soy sauce I used as the base. I added maybe 1 Tbs mirin, 1 Tbs sugar, 1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar, 1/4 tsp ground ginger (fresh is so much better, but I didn’t have any), 1/2 tsp black pepper, 6 cloves minced garlic (fresh, that I minced myself) and enough water so the whole thing equalled 1 1/2 cups. Just be sure to taste the sauce before adding it to the pan. It’s a lot easier to adjust before it’s mixed in. I stirred it until the sugar dissolved then poured it over the noodles, mixing it in and breaking up the noodles with the spatula. Then I added the tofu back to the skillet and tossed with the noodles and sauce, heating the whole thing through.

10. I topped the finished product with sesame seeds. Yumm! This one’s a family favorite.

One of the most interesting and exciting things about being human is that we have the power to change our circumstances by changing the way we think. Once we catch a bit of inspiration and turn our new thoughts into new behaviors incredible things happen. Since it is so easy to fall back into our old ways of thinking, it’s critical to protect our new, fragile, positive attitudes. Sadly, the people closest to us can be the ones who present the greatest danger.

In the past week, I’ve seen several instances where a friend was talked out of something that would’ve been so good for them by a friend or family member who probably thought they were protecting them from failure or disappointment. The problem with that is that if we don’t push ourselves to try new things or try something again after we’ve failed we will never change anything!

People think they know us and want us to feel good about ourselves. Unfortunately, the way they go about it isn’t always helpful. If I’m saying negative things about myself because I feel like I’m failing, I don’t need someone to baby me and say it’s ok to think that way. I need someone to tell me to stop it because they know I can do it! We need to encourage each other to be better, do more, and make positive changes; not to feel that it’s ok to beat ourselves up and stay where we are in life. I saw a perfect example of this on facebook the other day and I know the person meant well, but the situation made me want to scream.

If you’re trying to make positive changes DO NOT listen to people when they try to hold you back even when they think they’re being supportive. They probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. Just be aware of what they’re really saying and move on. If what they’re saying is reinforcing your negative self-talk, push those thoughts away and replace them with positive ones. Like Chalene Johnson says, “be your own biggest cheerleader”. You can do amazing things, but not if you continue to think about yourself and your life the same way.

If you’re one of those well-meaning friends or family members who feels like you’re protecting someone from disappointment please reconsider the way in which you show support. Instead of encouraging them not to try and to keep thinking the same way, show support by telling them you believe they can succeed. You have no idea how much that means to someone who’s decided to face a challenge and push forward. Not to sound cliché, but be part of the solution, not part of the problem. They will have moments when they want to quit because nothing worthwhile is easy. They way you show your support can be the difference between their success or failure. If deep down you’re afraid that their change will take them away from you, by being there and encouraging them through the tough times you’ll earn their appreciation, love and respect bringing you closer together. If you make every step they take that much harder you’ll drive a wedge between you which may result in the thing you fear the most.

I am very passionate about this topic because I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life and I’ve let friends and family hold me back because I listened to them when they said things that made me feel like I could never change. I’ve also cultivated a habit of not finishing what I’ve started and no one has ever held me accountable. They didn’t realize it, but what they were really saying to me was that they didn’t believe in me. We think and do based on our habits so it’s time to start paying attention and to form new ones. We need to stop being afraid to take on challenges and follow through. Sure we may fail, but then we pick ourselves up and try again and again and again. If we quit or never even start we guarantee failure, but when we keep going no matter what we will succeed!

This is one of my favorite soups and it’s pretty easy to make from scratch. I’m going to attempt to share this as an actual recipe although it’s usually something I make without measuring anything. There are so many variations of this, too, so feel free to change it up. You really can’t go wrong unless you add something crazy like vanilla extract or cinnamon. But I’m sure you wouldn’t do that, right?

1. I started with 3 largish leeks. If I had thought about posting this before I started I would’ve taken a photo. Oh well. Anyway, I cut off the dark green tops leaving only the white and very light green parts.

2. Then I split them lengthwise and cut them into 1/2 inches pieces. If you’ve ever used leeks before you know how dirty they are.

3. I washed the chopped pieces in a colander after soaking them in warm water for a few minutes and breaking them apart.

(Oh my gosh, I’m eating this while I’m typing and it’s SO good!)

4. I heated about 1 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter in a large pot on medium-low and added the drained leeks.

5. While those started to cook down, I chopped 1 large celery stalk and minced 6 cloves of garlic which I also added to the pot.

6. Then, I peeled and cubed 3 medium Russet potatoes and soaked them in cold water until the other stuff got nice and soft. I like to cut the potatoes in fairly large chunks so they hold their shape better in the end, but that’s totally up to you.

7. Next, I added 1 c. frozen corn to the pot and 1 14.5oz can Swanson chicken broth with less sodium (I think it’s 33% less, but I’m too busy eating and typing to get up and check).  You could also use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian. The broth just covered the veggies. Look, here’s a photo!

8. Once the concoction heated through I added the drained potatoes and enough water to cover them. Trust me, the other stuff is in there. It’s just hiding under the potatoes.

9. After turning up the heat to medium-high and bringing the pot to almost a boil, I covered it with the lid and turned the heat back down to medium-low. It took 10 minutes of simmering for the potatoes to become nice and soft without falling apart, but that time will vary depending on the size of the chunks so check them every few minutes so they don’t overcook.

10. Now for the creaminess. There are many ways to achieve this including heavy cream, half and half, fat-free half and half, evaporated milk, soy milk (not the kind with vanilla!), or cashew milk (the last two are great if you want to go vegan – you’d just sub olive oil for the butter). I chose to use cream cheese because that’s what we had on hand. You can’t just drop the cream cheese in, though, or you’ll end up with little blobs which is not what we’re going for. I scooped out 1 cup of the soup including some broth and some veggies and blended it with another 1 c water, about 4oz cream cheese and about 2 tsp cornstarch which I added to thicken it a bit and still keep most of the chunks.

11. After adding the blended mixture back to the pot I let it simmer a few more minutes. At this point, you can decide to leave it as is or blend more of the veggies to make a thicker soup with fewer chunks.

12. Finally, I seasoned it with salt and pepper and since I still had some, chopped fresh sage leaves.

I sprinkled on more black pepper once it was in the bowl. Cayenne or paprika would be good, too. YUMM!!!!!!

I think I’m falling in love…with fresh sage. I bought some from Trader Joe’s a few days ago for a Martha Stewart recipe that involved browning chicken sausages then simmering them in apple cider with fresh sage, onion, salt and pepper until the cider reduces to a delicious, syrupy glaze. Usually when I buy fresh herbs I forget about them until it’s too late and remorsefully discard them. This time I remembered the sage was in the fridge and that it goes great with turkey. A quick google search led me to a few easy recipes for turkey tetrazzini which I modified to work with what we had on hand. The finished product was delightful. Here’s the recipe. Serves 4-6

12 oz uncooked pasta of your choice ( I used organic gemelli)

1Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped small

2 large stalks celery, diced

10 oz sliced mushrooms (I used pre-sliced ones from Trader Joe’s)

1 jar Ragu Light Parmesan Alfredo sauce

2 c cubed, cooked turkey breast

4-5 fresh sage leaves, sliced in thin strips

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

1. heat olive oil on medium in large skillet

2. saute onions, celery and mushrooms until soft

3. while veggies are cooking, boil pasta according to directions on package and drain

4. add cubed turkey to skillet and heat through

5. add sauce, sage, salt and pepper to skillet and heat through

6. add cooked pasta to skillet and toss to coat

7. garnish with sage leaves if desired and enjoy!

I Got Sucked In and Sidetracked

Yeah, so it’s been a while. Too long. One night while I was waiting for my husband to finish tutoring I decided to see what I could find to watch on Netflix. I remembered seeing a few episodes of Ugly Betty on TV and being entertained so I started at the very beginning with Episode 1. The next thing I knew I was hooked, completely obsessed actually and like Betty, got sidetracked from what was really important. Interestingly, she began to find her way back by writing a blog so the problem became the solution as I was inspired to get back to posting again. Now I’m done with all 85 episodes and ready to return to real life again. I do miss her and all the other great characters, though. It’s really too bad they cancelled the show because it’s pretty great.

Once I have some quiet time without the sound of gunfire from Call of Duty (I honestly don’t understand why the men in my life enjoy playing that so much) or everyone asking me questions I’ll start transferring my thoughts to the computer again and get some more pictures posted. The weather is unbelievable this week and more things are blooming so it’s time to take some new photos. Ok, now my husband is trying to read over my shoulder and bugging me so I’ll be back later, but not too much later. 😉

One of the main purposes I have for writing this blog is to get people to do something different, to make positive changes. Since my facebook page is closely related to my blog I thought it would be fun to have daily challenges, “assignments” that are designed to get people to see life from a new perspective and improve their world. The categories are Family, Fitness, Food, Finances and Fun. The first challenge was posted this past weekend and it involved letting your family know how much you appreciate them. Today’s challenge was to find an organization or charity that means something to you and donate your time or money. I believe one of the most responsible things you can do with your money is to use it to help others. And even if you don’t have as much money as you would like, you have time. It’s just a matter of priorities.

I hope you’ll join us. Just go to my facebook page and click “like” at the top to receive the posts for each new challenge in your facebook news feed. If you have a suggestion for a challenge, please leave a comment below! I’m always open to suggestions.

Better Late Than Never

Though I grew up as an only child, I actually have three siblings. Two half brothers and one half sister. We all share the same dad. Well, it’s actually a little more complicated than that. The youngest brother was adopted and there was another brother who died shortly after birth. I was the last to arrive and the product of the next to last marriage. There is a pretty big age gap between them and me so they were all adults by the time I was old enough to remember spending time with them, which wasn’t often.

Of the three, I saw the youngest brother the most, about once or twice a year on holidays until I was a teenager. The oldest, my other brother, I may have met once when I was in elementary school, but neither of us actually remembers the encounter. Over 25 years later we finally started to get to know each other on facebook and have visited each other twice since with plans for another visit this summer. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same chance with my other brother because he passed away a few years ago due to health issues brought on by some unfortunate choices over the course of his lifetime. Even though I spent the most time around him I never felt like I knew him at all. Though I’ve heard many stories from those who did know him, I wish I had gotten to know him first hand while he was still alive.

I always dreamed of having a sister when I was growing up. Someone I could play with and tell all my secrets. Someone who had my back no matter what.  My parents divorced when I was very young so I never had that experience. Of course, I did have a sister, but she lived in another state with her husband and kids. We visited them a few times and I even stayed with them for a summer, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of sisterly relationship I was longing for. The funny thing is, though, that as time goes on, the difference in age becomes less and less significant. We’re both adults now and can relate on many levels. It’s been years since we’ve seen each other or even talked, but again facebook has brought me closer to my family.

 This is a photo of us when I was very young, too young to remember the visit.

As I compare that to this recent photo of me I am blown away by how much we look alike.

It turns out our looks aren’t the only thing we have in common. At the top of the list…procrastination. I find myself saying, “better late than never”, a lot. When it comes to my sister, that’s especially true because she is a cancer survivor. I lost my mom to breast cancer weeks before my husband and I got married and missed out on sharing my life as a wife and mom with her. I can count the number of female relatives I’ve actually met on one hand so connecting with my big sis is a big deal. How tragic it would’ve been if I had missed the chance to build a relationship with her.

It’s so easy to take people for granted and sadly that means we let important relationships slip through our fingers as time flies by. I wish I had been there to support my sister as she battled cancer, but at least we still have time to be sisters now and her victory over one of my greatest fears inspires me. Better late than never, indeed.

When it comes to dinner for my family, the faster and easier the better. The trick is finding dishes that everyone will like. I live with some pretty picky people and they all like and dislike different things which makes things challenging (and frustrating at times). I’m not quite sure how we ended up this way because when my boys were little they ate pretty much everything good. Somehow along the way they decided they don’t like certain things anymore that they used to love. Hopefully it’s just a phase. My husband has been picky ever since I met him so that’s no big surprise. Now that I’m attempting to provide healthier food it’s even more challenging. You see, they all like pizza and hot dogs and french fries, but eating that way all the time isn’t exactly ideal.

Tonight, I decided to throw together a soup inspired by the ease of Sam the Cooking Guy’s tortilla soup. With plenty of ingredients in the cupboard I started throwing things together and it turned out better than I expected. Here’s the “recipe”. The ingredients are listed in the order I dumped them into the pot. The only thing I wish I had, but did not, was corn. Oh well. Next time. Oh, and maybe some green chiles. Shredded rotisserie chicken would work, too. Ok, the possibilities may very well be endless.

2 14.5oz cans Swanson chicken broth – 33% less sodium

about 1tsp minced, dehydrated onion

1 14.5oz can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed by hand (because I didn’t feel like washing the blender)

5 cloves of garlic, pressed

taco seasoning, chicken and tomato bouillon to taste (didn’t measure)

about 2tsp Mexican oregano, crushed (different from regular oregano, found in the Latino section)

about 3/4c Barilla Plus penne pasta, dry (added after the rest came to a boil and simmered for 12 minutes)

The entire pot of soup only had 725 calories, 3 grams of fat, 46 grams of protein, and 36 grams of fiber. Serves 4-8 depending on whether the soup is the main dish or a side.

I topped the soup with some shredded cheese and served it with salad and corn bread. I’m thinking it would’ve been really good with some freshly squeezed lime juice like Sam suggests for his Black Bean Soup (also easy and delicious).